A yoke of sun from early dawn shone in Laura's eyes. Its warmth across her face was an invitation to another challenging day. Through the window she watched clouds drift across a landscape of blue.
She stretched, long arms grabbing at the air. Fingers clenched and unclenched. Twisting quickly she stepped onto the cold morning floor. After locating her housecoat and slippers she made her way to a spare room, used as an office.
Laura settled comfortably in a favorite chair at her desk. Clutter among the dust caused her to scrunch up her nose as she pushed away unnecessary junk with a bold sweep of her arm. Crash went the book resting precariously on the edge.
"Sorry, Dr. Spock." But, he was like an old hat now. In fact she heard him on TV awhile back apologizing for radical views in his first book. And then he vowed to correct them in his next publication. She pulled open the drawer, took out the letter she wrote last night and read...
"Mom, being thirty doesn't make it easier raising a child on your own. And I still haven't told Brett he has an older brother, Edward. I regret I adopted him out when I was very young. Maybe he's just down the street, or in another city or country. I keep hearing his voice inside my head, "Where are you, mommy?" All I can answer is, "I still love you, Eddie my son..."
Laura stopped. Suddenly, then folded her letter got up and walked down the hall. She peeked around the bedroom door, silent in her slippers. Her son Brett was asleep; blankets pulled tightly to his chin. Eight years old with fair complexion and shiny brown hair. Thought-lines etched across his brow.
He stirred at the sudden stillness in the room, scratched his chest, with a lazy sweep of hand. He was a small built engine of energy but the doctor said not to worry.
"He'll spurt suddenly," Laura was told last month. "Then you won't be the smallest kid in your class any longer," she later told Brett. He is quality material, Laura thought. She padded over to the bed taking him in with her gaze, feasting on his morning stretches. His youth, his vitality gave her a lift.
"Mom, how come the sun is up already?" Half-closed eyes squinted, looked up. Then smiled.
"Why's the sun so early?" Brett repeated, stifling a yawn. A beam of light struck his right eye.
"The sun is on a time clock, like us. It's seven-fifteen," his mom said raising an eyebrow. "Hurry up chum, or I'll be late for work."
"I'm getting up." Brett reluctantly pulled back the covers. Sandman eyes came fully alert, dreams pushed into fading memories.
"Not right this minute, hon." Laura joined her son with a quick spring onto the bed, jostling him, tickling his feet.
"Stop! Stop! What are you doing? HEYY MOMM!"
"Just loving you, hon." A warm embrace smothered his shoulders. She kissed his forehead then stood quickly before he protested any further. "Okay you. Out of bed. Quick! We have to wash, dress, eat and I scoot."
"Why?" He threw her an impish grin, feet pedaling the air.
"Cause your granny will think I'm spoiling you, that's why not." Their cat Boots almost got trampled as mother and son chased each other around the house.
Pulling out of the driveway at 8:30 AM, allowed Laura ample time to bring Brett to school. She paused barely long enough to give him a quick hug in front of Parade Elementary. Then she was off to work at the grocery store.
The school principal, Mr. Harvey, was anxious for classes to begin. Watching through the Venetian blinds, in his office, he saw Brett get out, then give a goodbye wave.
Nice kid, he thought. Well mannered, good looking and healthy as can be. Mr. Harvey thought for sure he'd have difficulty as an only child in a one-parent family. It must be rough with his dad leaving home a couple of years ago.
Hard to figure, he mused. Mrs. Weatherbee was a 'looker' and a good person. Any man would be proud of such a lady. Anyone it seems, except her husband Ron. He had it made. Or did he?
Gossip said he drank too much and often beat his wife before taking off. Apparently Laura was too proud to let it get her down. Oh well, time to get ready, school's about to start...
Brett hurried to his class moments before the bell rang. He gave a quick glance at his over boots hoping they would still be there at recess.
Mom was quite unhappy when his last pair went missing. Someone must have needed them more than he did. His name was now printed in bold letters on the inside of each boot.
His teacher, Mrs. Sullivan gave him a stern look as he was last entering his grade three classroom. Brett melted into his seat.
"Mrs. Weatherbee? How are you this morning? Laura! HELLOOO!"
Laura looked up. "Phew. I must have been daydreaming," she called out. Lee Archibald was parked alongside. She stepped out of her car, throwing a smile at her boss. They didn't have much time to tarry since customers were starting to line up at Archibald's Grocery. His father owned the store for twenty-two years before passing it on to his son.
"Laura, you seem pre-occupied this morning. Perhaps I should give you a penny for your thoughts?" He was a tall man, and used to running a mile each morning before work.
"Thanks Lee, you always were a generous man. I believe it's a Loonie now."
The day sped by and Laura, as Head Cashier, was her usual efficient and cheerful self. This is what she loved, being with people. She always wanted to work, but Ron didn't like the idea.
"Just to get out of the house, once in a while," Laura said so often. "A part-time job would also help with the bills."
"I don't think it's necessary for my wife to work" Ron ranted.
Endless discussions on the matter got nowhere and their debts mounted. How could she convince him everything in their marriage was coming apart? Ron barely trusted her to be out of the house, ever since she confessed to having a child out of wedlock several years before they were married.
She mistakenly thought he would be forgiving.
Laura confessed to living with her mother until Edward was born then sadly gave him up for adoption. She couldn't dream of raising him on her own. She wanted him to have a better chance with someone else.
Edward was a beautiful child, her first. Sparkling blue eyes and a happy smile remained with her all these years. The hardest part was the day Laura kissed her Edward good-bye after legal papers were finally signed. It was such a difficult time for her.
"Good-bye baby, good-bye Edward. I'll always love you." Then he was gone.
There were many times over the years when she worried about her young son. Wondering how he was coming along. Wondering whose name he had. And even where he was. She always hoped the family that adopted him would never change his first name. She wanted him to at least have that gift from herself.
Things were never the same between her and Ron. His drinking began shortly after Laura told him about Edward. He even lost interest in his own son, Brett.
She saw the danger signals and vowed she would never give her second child up to anyone. Not for any reason. Never, never again, even if it meant just the two of them alone against the world. Not really against the world but simply making ends meet on her modest salary.
It was a blessing to have each other.
Laura had an interesting position and counted her lucky stars the job came along when it did. Yes, there was much to be thankful for. Now morning's rush of customers brought her back to the present.
During recess this same morning Edward sat on a snow bank staring thoughtfully at children racing around. He wondered how many in the schoolyard were like him, a foster child.
After all this time, it was a strange feeling, living in someone else's home. Away from your own mom and dad.
He once overheard his Children's Aid worker say he was a 'difficult child.' Why? Edward wondered at the time. He seemed healthy enough even though he was small for his age. And his baby blue eyes peeked through long lashes. They made him so lovable. At least that's what girls in his class said about him.
Yet, his innocent looking features could be quite deceiving. Good thing they don't know how angry he felt inside.
Edward thought about four foster homes he already lived in. Also there were two previous adopting families who had given up on him. He couldn't forget the beatings either, at one of the homes. The Children's Aid worker was an older person, experienced in working with 'hard-to-place' children.
She had said, "I've finally found the right couple for you Edward."
His new foster family had three children of their own; all older. This time it just had to work out. And it did for a while. He was nine years old when he went to live with his new family, the Lapointes.
At first they were just another pair of faces but Edward was loved. For the first time in a long while, he felt comfortable. He was finally at peace with himself. Except when he thought about his real mom, there was an empty space inside. He wondered where she was right now.
He knew he had to settle down. If only he could stop his lying and stealing. Or else, the Lapointes might give up on him, too.
But it wasn't easy getting rid of old habits. He tried so hard to stop taking money from his brother and sister's piggy banks. How could he expect to get anything for Christmas the way he was behaving? Even family discussions didn't seem to help.
Poor school habits cost him two failed school years. Now Edward was going on thirteen and only in grade six. He was getting bored with the young kids in his class. Something had to happen, soon.
The recess bell rang, interrupting his rambling thoughts. He had a court date tomorrow afternoon. This would be his third appearance for theft charges. Judge Templeton told him he'd better not come back with further problems.
"I hope they don't send me away," Edward said under his breath. Moistened eyes looked up at the sky. Only blowing wind and snowflakes adding to December's whitened ground heard him. It should have been a peaceful moment. But it wasn't.
"Oh mom. Where are you?" His new mom was a nice person but he needed his real mom right now. Tears streamed down his face as he closed his eyes. Edward needed her arms around him.
His hair re-arranged itself in the wind, jacket opened wide in spite of the coolness. Fists clenched and unclenched. The recess bell rang and everyone headed back to classes. Edward wiped moisture from his eyes.
He didn't notice a younger boy staring at him in the schoolyard.
'Hi," the boy said, "I'm Brett. Is something wrong?"
* * *
Richard L. Provencher
My wife, Esther and I really enjoy writing. It is an excellent salve, in addition to prayers, a great wife and family during my continuing recovery from a stroke/aneurysm. You can contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org re comments on our work. We live in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada. Pray for others.